Law change following ASLEF case

01 June 2007

The government is consulting the union about changing UK trade union law following the European Court of Human Right’s upholding of ASLEF’s decision to expel a British National Party (BNP) activist.

Following the decision, the British government is now being forced to reexamine its own legal position and is currently consulting with ASLEF and other unions about how to amend UK legislation to conform with the court’s decision.

In 2002 ASLEF expelled a member for BNP membership, but the individual won an Employment Tribunal, thus preventing his expulsion. This was based on section 174 of the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992 which prohibits unions from excluding or expelling persons wholly or to any extent on the ground that the individual is or was a member of a political party. However, ASLEF appealed to the Employment Appeal Tribunal which overturned the earlier decision, finding that a union could expel a member on the ground of his or her conduct, and referred the case to a second Employment Tribunal. However, the second tribunal upheld the complaint, saying that his expulsion had been ‘primarily because of his membership of the BNP’. ASLEF was therefore forced to re-admit him as a member.

In 2005 ASLEF lodged an application with the European Court of Human Rights, which relied on Article 11 of the European Convention of Human Rights which states that ‘Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and to freedom of association with others, including the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.’

ASLEF's case was that the union had been prevented from expelling a member due to his membership of a political party which holds view contrasting it own and that this was an infringement on its own freedom of association. The Court ruled in ASLEF’s favour, holding that there had been a violation of Article 11.

To read the International Employment Right’s 2004 submission to the Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR) on BNP infiltration click here.

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